According to the International Thriller Writers, the definition of thriller novel is a novel that has "the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace." In other words, a thriller novel will thrill you.
Definition of Thriller NovelThriller novels have villains, suspense, and action in settings such as espionage, medicine, crime, politics, and high tech, to name a few. They often involve life and death situations and have high stakes, like the control of the world or the possibility of widespread death or destruction. Many times innocent people are victimized, stalked, or caught in situations that are beyond their control. They have to overcome obstacles, either alone or with a small group of people, and stop some catastrophe from happening. Usually, thrillers have a happy ending.
What makes a novel a thriller is not just the situations and the things that can or may happen to the characters, but the way the plot is written. A skillful author can excite, surprise, worry, and influence your emotions in many ways. He can keep you on your toes and engaged with nonstop action, plot twists, and a fast pace.
Now that you have a definition of thriller novels you may be interested in knowing some of the types of thrillers. Here is a list of some of them with an explanation:
- Psychological thriller novels deal with people who are insane or disturbed. Some times this fact is revealed later in the book. The emphasis is on the character as much or more than the plot. The inherent danger in a psychological thriller is mental rather than physical, and mental resources are needed to overcome obstacles.
- Mystery thriller books focus on the actions of a character as he tries to solve a crime by using clues and deduction. Sometimes the reader knows “who did it” at the beginning and follows the sleuth on his journey to unravel the truth. Other times, the reader does not know the perpetrator until the character does.
- Spy thriller novels deal with the world of espionage and the actions of secret agents. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré is an excellent example of this type of thriller.
- Sci-Fi Thrillers add the world of science fiction to the mix. A good example is Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain.
- Military thriller books are sometimes based on real war stories. Some good authors of this kind of thriller are: Paul Brickhill, Lee Child, and Stephen Hunter.